There are few things that tug at a snow lover’s heartstrings as much as watching the last lift chair slowly stop moving, swaying gently in the sunshine as the ski resort closes for the season. For many, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling, knowing that it’ll be months before you’re cradled in the embrace of the chair again, letting it sweep you to stashes of untracked pow or perfect groomers.
But for others, seeing that chair swing to a stop evokes another feeling–one of anticipation. After all, most ski town don’t shut down when the snow melts. Yes, there was a time when summer was a sleepy season, beloved by locals and ignored by almost everyone else. But times have changed and now summers are as busy as winters – if not more so (I’m looking at you, Fourth of July weekend). So instead of resigning yourself to the city for the summer, make plans to check out these ski towns while the sun shines and there’s nary a snowflake in sight.
Yes, Aspen is known for its celebrity sightings, but don’t dismiss Snowmass in the summer. With a new base village packed with shops, restaurants (Beer and doughnuts at ColoraDough? Yes, please!) tons of events like the Snowmass Rendezvous Craft Beer Festival and Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, and the brand new, super sleek Limelight Hotel, there’s no better time to visit Snowmass than in the summer. Mountain bikers will enjoy cross country trails on Sky Mountain Park and the downhill park. There are also tons of trails for hikers and trail runners to enjoy, or check out the mile-long mountain coaster, ropes course and more in Lost Forest. Be sure to check out Collective Snowmass at the base village for inexpensive fun with pre-concert parties before Snowmass’s Wednesday night concerts, an artisans’ market on Friday nights and boozy brunches.
Grand Targhee, WY
You might have considered heading to Wyoming in the summer (cough, Jackson Hole, cough) due to its proximity to Yellowstone National Park and its inherent coolness. But before you join the throngs in Jackson, consider a slightly different destination: Grand Targhee Resort. Nestled in an area known as Wydaho (you’ll cross into Idaho to access this part of Wyoming) between both Yellowstone NP and Teton National Park, Targhee is just as spectacular and refreshingly less crowded than its well-known neighbor. There’s rafting, float trips, biking, hiking, horseback riding and more—including several epic camp-able music festivals—it’s worth a trip over the Tetons to Targhee.
Lake Tahoe, CA/NV
This is a bit of a cheat because there are so many ski areas in the Lake Tahoe area that we don’t have to pick just one to focus on. Instead, just head to Tahoe in the summertime and soak up all this area has to offer. The area is split into North and South Lake Tahoe; it’s possible to explore both, but you might be better off picking a side and sticking to it (for this trip). There’s the almost requisite biking and hiking (including some multi-day hikes to really stretch your legs) on both sides, plus scenic gondola rides, etc. But Lake Tahoe has something that many other locations don’t: water sports! Kayaking, jet skiing, paddleboarding, catamaran tours and even a beach or two await those that visit Lake Tahoe. Take advantage of the water then seek out a festival or two and hit the clubs in the evening.
There’s nothing like a New England summer and if you’re looking for a combo of outdoor fun and plenty of relaxation as well, then head to Vermont. There are plenty of ski areas here that don’t seem to miss the snow much in the summer, but Stowe is a particularly good place to base. This area loves its craft beer, not only holding a craft beer festival, but also a Craft Brew Race, allowing participants to work up a thirst before imbibing. Then there are the many breweries that are easily visited (like The Alchemist) and Ben & Jerry’s for a sweet tour. Oh, and the hiking, mountain biking, etc., etc., etc. all located in a bucolic area complete with picturesque covered bridges.
Park City, UT
Park City knows how to party during the season and there’s no slowdown when the snow melts. The upper deck at the No Name Saloon is a popular lounging spot for a local craft beer and High West Distillery is just as welcoming in the summer as the winter. Mountain bikers can ride the Payday lift for early-season biking followed by the Crescent Lift at the Park City Mountain Village. Crescent Lift unloads mountain bikers at access points for the IMBA recognized “Epic Ride” on the Mid-Mountain Trail and accesses miles of beautiful mountain trails. The Red Pine Gondola at Canyons Village also provides access to miles of gorgeous cross-country biking and hiking trails (though there’s no longer a downhill bike park at Canyons Village). Want a scenic, historic, epic ride or hike? Hop on the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail. This State Park starts at 6,900’ in elevation, near Park City, and falls, over the course of 27.7 miles, to 5,280’ elevation at the eastern end. After a day in the sun, enjoy the live music that seems to occur almost daily in Park City on the mountain, in Main Street, at Deer Valley, City Park and more.
These are just a few of the ski towns that we love during the summer. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!